OTTAWA – Canada stopped celebrating goals, but kept scoring them in a 15-0 thumping of Kazakhstan at the 2009 world junior hockey championship Sunday.
With goal differential a part of the tiebreaking formula at the conclusion of the preliminary round, the Canadians wanted to score a lot and mercy wasn’t an option against their overmatched opponent.
“With goal differential that could come upon us later in the tournament, it was very important for us to get as many goals as we can and keep the pucks out of our net,” defenceman P.K. Subban said.
“The good thing is, we don’t have time to dwell on it. We turn around tomorrow and we’re back into it again.”
Canada, 2-0, meets Germany on Monday (TSN, 7:30 ET) for the second game in as many days for the defending champs.
The top team in each of the two pools earns a bye to the semifinals. The runners-up face the third-place team from the opposite pool in the quarter-finals.
The U.S., was also 2-0 in Pool A after a 4-3 win over the Czech Republic. Russia and Sweden were tied atop Pool B at 2-0. Russia beat Finland 5-2 and the Swedes defeated Slovakia 3-1.
Canada concludes the preliminary round Wednesday against the Americans in a game that will likely determine which country gets the bye.
With the exception of a nervous opening period versus the Czech Republic on Friday, Canada has yet to be really tested and have outscored their opposition 23-1 in two Pool A games.
The Canadians are heavy favourites against Germany, which earned promotion by winning one of two world ‘B’ championships in 2008.
Jamie Benn of the Kelowna Rockets led the way for Canada with a hat trick. He was one goal short of the record for goals scored by a Canadian player in a single game. That record is held jointly by Mario Lemieux (1983) and Simon Gagne (1999).
Canada’s last hat trick in this tournament was by Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter in 2004.
“It’s a nice feeling and I’m happy about it, but it’s one of those games where you can’t get too excited,” said Benn, a Dallas Stars’ draft pick.
John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals and Cody Hodgson of the Brampton Battalion each had four-point nights with two goals and two assists apiece. Subban of the Belleville Bulls also scored twice.
Medicine Hat Tigers forward Tyler Ennis contributed a goal and two assists. Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats, Chris DiDomenico of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Evander Kane of the Vancouver Giants, Stefan Della Rovere of the Barrie Colts and Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers also scored in front of 19,176 at Scotiabank Place.
Goaltender Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans had little work in his first start of the tournament. He made 11 saves for the shutout and half of them came during a short flurry in the second period.
“Obviously it’s tough because I didn’t get very much work at all, but I think the main thing is I stayed sharp and stayed focused in there and that’s what they’re looking for,” Pickard said.
Canada’s score against Kazakhstan wasn’t the most lopsided in the country’s history at the world junior tournament, but it was close. Canada beat Germany 18-2 in 1985, Poland 18-3 the following year and France 15-0 in 2001.
There’s a dropoff in talent between the top six teams here and the next four and Kazakhstan falls into the latter group after giving up 24 goals in their first two games.
“On our team, there’s not enough talent,” Kazak defenceman Evgeni Bolyakin said. “We need more practice. We just don’t have enough skill.”
All but four of Canada’s skaters registered at least one point as they pelted the Kazak net with 69 shots. Canada’s post-goal celebrations became more subdued with each goal.
“It’s something you learn in sports in general and not just hockey,” Subban said. “You never celebrate when you’re beating a team that badly. They had a lot of respect for us and we tried to show it back.”
Canadian head coach Pat Quinn wants his team to get better every game and a game like Sunday’s makes him nervous because he saw bad habits creeping in during the second period.
“We started to do the nice pretty wheels and turns and drop passes and things when you’re playing strong opposition, it can kick you and bite you,” Quinn said. “We all know skill is very important, but when you come up against a team that also has skill, then you’ll win the game with what’s between your ears and how you discipline yourself.
“When it gets tough, you have to be tough.”
After a 9-0 loss to the Germans the previous night, it didn’t look good for Kazakhstan in facing the defending champions less than 24 hours later.
While the Kazaks competed hard in one-on-one battles, they came no where near to matching Canada’s passing skills and team game. Canada threw the puck around the offensive zone almost at will.
Goaltender Andrei Yankov made spectacular saves in the first period as the Canadians circled his net like sharks, but it was difficult for him to keep the score close when the opposition outshot his team 22-2 in the first 20 minutes.
After 35 saves on 44 shots, Yankov was replaced by Maxim Gryaznov to start the third period.
With half the population of Canada, Kazakhstan has 4,716 registered hockey players and eight indoor rinks compared to half a million hockey players and 2,400 indoor rinks in Canada.
Kazakhstan stayed in the ‘A’ championship and avoided relegation to the ‘B’ tournament by finishing eighth in 2008. But the country doesn’t have enough depth of talent in hockey to build consistent success in the top-level tournament.
Still, Bolyakin, who plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League for Amur Khabarovsk, would rather take his lumps in the ‘A’ championship.
“It’s better to play in the more prestigious Group A,” he said. “We’re learning, especially against teams such as Canada.”
NOTES: Della Rovere played despite a badly bruised leg from a blocked shot in Friday’s opener, which meant Subban didn’t have to move up from defence to replace him . . . Canada improved to 2-1 versus Kazakhstan in the world junior tournament. Canada avenged a 6-3 loss to the Kazaks in 1998 by thumping them 12-2 a year later in Winnipeg.